The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come? This was no bah humbug…
Coventry v Moseley: 17 December 2016
As 3.00 pm approached, you sensed that whatever was about to unfold was going to be something rather special. There was a buzz, a constant hum of excitement in the final minutes before kick off.
As the Coventry players looped round in a jog in front of the main stand before leaving the pitch at the end of the warm up, the roar of encouragement from the crowd was enough to make the players look up to acknowledge the support.
Saturday afternoon at the BPA taken to a different level; an almost tangible sense of excitement.
Goosebumps a go-go
And as the bars emptied and the supporters took their places either in the stand or around the ground, it was clear this was a big crowd.
And I mean big…
To put it into some sort of context, Plymouth Albion, third in the league and at home to leaders Hartpury, attracted just 1222.
According to Statbunker, our previous highest attendance this season was 1187, which seems a little low but maybe that’s simply because yesterday’s figure was so extraordinarily high. If it is correct, then there were 1525 more supporters in the ground than at any home game this season…a figure which itself is higher than any attendance we’ve had in the last two seasons.
The numbers are just staggering.
And yes it caused problems, especially in and around the main bar…but no one could have envisaged quite the numbers involved. There weren’t enough staff on, people did have to queue far too long, but as I walked through the bar well before 2.00 pm and the queues were already building, it was satisfaction and not frustration that was the overwhelming emotion for me.
If it was happening every week, I’d be hammering away on the keyboard, venting my spleen…but as a one off, it was just a relief to see so many there, to be honest.
Organised chaos it might have been…but rather that than an empty ground and a losing team.
I’d rather look on the positives…Cov had worked hard on selling the match to the public in the days leading up to the game, especially through social media. And the public responded in their hundreds. Already, there’s another offer on for the Blackheath game…momentum is building, average gates will increase.
And shift there is…
The giant awakes…
Now there will be those who probably disagree…Cov is no longer a giant of the game. And that’s true, we’re not. But in the context of National 1, where we’ve lain pretty dormant for the last 6 years, this club is very much a giant…
…an attendance of 2712?
And how applicable that at Christmas time we should have our own visitation from the Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come…but unlike Ebenezer’s, ours was full of hope and optimism, a taste of what life at Cov could be like in the future. It was the glimpse of a Coventry successful on and off the pitch…of happier times to come should we choose to take them.
And why wouldn’t we…?
And as we look back on yesterday, few of those present will want to go back to the reality of most Saturday’s, where Cov play in front of half empty stands and have to make do with the fact that we are still the best attended club in the league. For too long we’ve lived in the shadow of Christmas Past, and Christmas Present hasn’t offered us much hope, either…
But what we saw yesterday was a day full of adrenaline and excitement. From early in the morning to late in the evening, Twitter was full of awash with supporters either excited prior to the game or aglow after it.
Happy people in a happy place…
And for Rowland Winter, the coaches and the players, yesterday must have given them all a real taste of what success could bring to Coventry Rugby Club. It’s what they came here for and having beaten the team second in the league in front of such a large and appreciative crowd, they must feel as if there is a real platform now on which to build…I can only imagine what it must have felt like to look up from the pitch on the final whistle and see the crowd erupt in the main stand.
Rowland Winter certainly seemed to savour the moment.
Yesterday saw a seismic shift in terms of results…we’ve now beaten the second and third placed teams in the league and narrowly lost out to the run-away leaders…and beating the teams above us has been something of a problem in recent seasons.
The manner of the win yesterday, of the character and passion that the players showed, represented pretty much everything that was absent in the away games against Esher and Blackheath.
Near enough the same players and the same effort but just with a shed load of self-belief…so when we went behind, even by six points, Cov still believed.
And that 20 metre driving maul that gained speed the more ground it covered became an unstoppable juggernaut. Moseley were unable to defend against it and over we went. From then on we looked (
the best side by a distance – amended) fairly comfortable and the last 15 minutes we played some clever rugby. Other than a lose kick near the end when the ball was brought back into the 22 before touch was found, we were pretty much in control.
An unstoppable juggernaut…a metaphor of things to come, perhaps?
If Cov can take that form on their travels, then come the end of the season we’ll finish in the top three or four and in good heart…
…sadly though, they can’t take the 2712 supporters with them.
Cov dominated the first 25-30 minutes and the last 20, Moseley the time in between. And whilst the game was close and Moseley certainly will feel that they had their chances, I think Cov were the better team. Some odd decision-making and wasteful kicking let Mose back into a game that should have been far less of a nail biter than it proved to be.
The play leading to Pete White’s yellow card was a strange one…quite why we kept the ball in the scrum on our own 5m line as long as we did I’m not sure, and then why we decided to move the ball wide rather than relieve the lines with a kick to touch…?
We put far too much pressure on ourselves in the minutes up to half time and allowed Moseley into a game that they had been outplayed in the first 25 minutes.
Another poor decision and an even poorer kick allowed Moseley to score their second try and take the lead after we had gone 16-10 ahead. And to be honest, Moseley did what we have done on too many occasions this season, they had plenty of possession, worked the phases well, but more often than not were unable to break down what was a resilient defence and ended up giving the ball away under pressure.
No matter how much Moseley attacked, the Cov line held firm and if this is a sign of the impact Craig Newby is already having, then it bodes well for the future. I did worry before the game that in the battle of the back rows, we might come out second best, but for the most part, Dyer and Daynes were magnificent and Sam Harry looks to be improving all the time.
For me, Brett had his best game since his return to Cov and it was his quick thinking that lead to Will Maisey’s final penalty to take us into the lead. James Stokes is going to get the plaudits more often than not because if he has a good game, it’s invariably going to involve plenty of metres gained and some pulsating runs.
Yesterday, the forwards did the hard graft to allow the backs to get some decent ball and Brett Daynes typified that graft for me…he and Darrel Dyer were immense.
It wasn’t a complete performance by any means. We lacked some self-discipline at times, gave away too many penalties and the scrum, dominant when it needed to be, wasn’t always the threat we’d hoped for…I’m still not sure why at times there’s no attempt to drive on our own put it…?
The fact that it there are still areas we can improve upon, that need addressing, is reassuring because, despite the win and a performance that was heartening, there is still more to come from this Coventry side. Plenty more.
RW has talked about taking forward a core of 25ish players from the present squad, which suggests that maybe 7 or 8 don’t figure in his plans. Bring in 7 or 8 over the summer to strengthen it and, if we continue to improve over the remainder of the season, then we have the basis of a promotion chasing side come September. All a long way off and there are plenty of twists and turns before then, but on the basis of yesterday’s performance there’s plenty of reason for optimism over the coming months.
Had last week’s poll been left a week, yesterday’s result against Moseley would have influenced the result dramatically. There were a lot of very smiley faces on the way out of the ground after the game…the players did themselves and the coaches a big favour out there on the pitch.
A different result might have left a feeling of unease hanging over the three week break before the next game. Not so after the win. There are plenty of warm fuzzies about now and it’s altogether a huge contrast to this time last year when the wheels had fallen well and truly off by now and we spent the next few weeks looking at what was happening below us in the table rather than above.
Has the winter break come at the right time…?
Hard to say… there’s definitely a bit of momentum behind the team at the moment with the draw away from home last week and the win yesterday. I’m sure the players will be in confident mood and would fancy the trip to Macclesfield next weekend…
That said, a three week break will give the squad a chance to recuperate from what has been a tough first half of the season. Far more of the squad have been involved than I’d expected – especially after the concerns of last season – and there will be a few knocks and bumps and bruises that will benefit from a bit of rest.
The big, big bonus for me is that after 15 games we have an injury list of just 4 players in total and all four, Olly Povoas, Sam Grasso, Rob Knox and Boris Stankovich, should be available to play when the fixtures resume. No long term injuries, no players out for the rest of the season – in effect they’ll be a full squad to select from for the Macclesfield game.
RW was quick to put in place an infrastructure to support the players, one that focused not just on the treatment of injuries, but also prevention as well. Hannah and Rob, together with their respective teams, have done fantastic work to get Cov into the position where, mid-season, everyone in the squad is available for selection in January. I can’t remember that happening in previous seasons and it makes us far more competitive as a result…
Great stuff being done behind the scenes.
All-in-all, a great way to greet the festive season…who’d have thought this time last year things would have panned out quite the way they have.
I’m not complaining though…
I’m tempted to make some pun involving yesterday being a something of a Winter Wonderland…
…but I’ll resist it.
If you haven’t already voted for yesterday’s Man of the Match, please do get involved…I’ll post the result either tomorrow or on Tuesday.
Many thanks in advance…